The needler in the haystack.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Former Plainfield Councilor Bramnick wants public comment brought to the Legislature

Jon Bramnick served as Plainfield councilor from 1984-1991.

Former Plainfield councilor Jon Bramnick, now an Assemblyman representing District 21 and the GOP's Assembly Whip, introduced a bill Thursday to introduce REAL public comment into the state's legislative process.

The legislation would allow public comment ON THE FLOOR OF THE LEGISLATURE for the first time.

The proposed bill would require the state Assembly and Senate to set aside specific times to listen to the public.

Bramnick's press release points out that in opening the floor for remarks, the Legislature would be adopting the good government principles used by every town council and school board, where the public is already invited to speak.

“As a former Plainfield councilman, I recall quite vividly how citizens would take the microphone on a weekly basis. They would ask questions and request answers to issues facing their city and neighborhood,” said Bramnick.

“Citizens regularly attend meetings and they express their views during what some municipalities call privilege of the floor. We need to allow New Jerseyans the same right in the statehouse,” he added.

Under the existing rules, public comment is permitted ONLY DURING COMMITTEE HEARINGS and then ONLY ON TOPICS LISTED ON THE AGENDA.

The proposed legislation allows the public to bring ANY ISSUE to Trenton. Each house would determine how much time is reserved for comment and any rules governing the speaker’s conduct. In addition, the proposed legislation recommends the public comments session occur at least four times a year.

“Politicians say they rely on public input to guide them. What better way to tap public opinion than to invite comment on the floor. Too often, the state capitol is a remote and isolated territory, where only the special interests can wield influence,” Bramnick said.

If the bill is enacted New Jersey would be a pioneer in public outreach. Officials at the National Conference of State Legislators know of no other state where the public is allowed on the floor of the legislature. Most states elicit comments through e-mails or provide hotlines to gather public opinion.

Bramnick said “if we set aside time for the public to address our lawmakers, we will be emulating one of the best parts of local government and helping build trust in government.”

  • For more information, contact Assemblyman Bramnick's office directly at (908) 400-4214 or by email to
-- Dan Damon

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